Erica Wagner is the author of Gravity, a book of stories, and Ariel's Gift. She was born in New York and lives in London, where she is literary editor of The Times.
The primal fear of maternal abandonment is twisted into this insistently dark, atmospheric novel by London Times literary editor Wagner, author of a story collection (Gravity) and nonfiction book on Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath (Ariel's Gift). Janet Ward, in a settled long-term relationship but suffering from dreamlike seizures, is shocked to suddenly inherit a house from her mother-whom she had always believed died when she was three. Upon her arrival at the small seaside stone cottage in the English north, Janet discovers she is not alone: a man named Tom has been given a key of his own. A torrid spell of stories and dreams from the past (an elusive mother, seal-women and demon lovers, journeys across the sea) follows, along with the present reality of Tom and Janet together in the cottage, trying to figure out who they are to one another and why their meeting feels like destiny. Much of the book is a drawn-out, portentous standoff between the two, and readers won't be surprised at their mutual attraction or the truth of their connection. The prose is overblown and repetitive, and layers of symbolism further weigh the story down, but Wagner's lyrical vision of Janet is palpable through the haze. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Janet, who suffers from seizures, was raised by her father and told that her mother died when she was three years old. One day, she discovers that she has inherited a stone cottage by the sea from a mother who, it turns out, has only recently passed away. Janet arrives at the house to find it already inhabited by someone with a key and his own claim to the property. Janet is oddly drawn to Tom, a strange and mysterious loner who lived a nomadic childhood with his mother. Present-day events are combined with flashbacks to the two characters' childhoods and the dark and fantastic stories Tom's mother told him as he grew up, which eventually come together in a single creepy and disturbing reality. Unfortunately, London Times editor Wagner (Ariel's Gift) strings together unlikely events and avoidable crises, resulting in an unbelievable apogee. Recommended only for large literary fiction collections.--Sarah Conrad Weisman, Corning Community Coll., NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.